There was a good article in The Nation recently about religion and our founding fathers. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing – I’m aware that present-day religious fanatics would like to paint our country as inherently steeped in religion, and that many of the founding fathers could be better described as deists – but I see that I underestimated our founding fathers. In fact, as the aformentioned article tells us, the Treaty of Tripoli, signed in 1797, says
As the Government of the United States…is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion–as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen–and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
And this was no minority opinion, either: the Senate approved the treaty unanimously, only the third time in the Senate’s history that it did so. (Out of 339 total votes at the time.) How things change.
I actually recently realized that Buddhism has somehow become the only religion that my brain is willing to treat seriously. (Unless you count Taoism as a religion; I certainly have enough translations of the Tao Te Ching around the house…) I’m not sure how long that has been the case, but I was reading a (quite good) book of medieval Japanese stories whose introduction spent some amount of time explaining Buddhism in Japan, and it all seemed perfectly natural to me. Not that I’m about to become a Buddhist myself (though I would like to spend some time studying meditation at a Zen center), but my brain thinks it quite normal to read about Buddhists, whereas that part of my brain is incapable of treating people who believe in, say, monotheistic religions in the same way. Odd…
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